Preventing Urinary Retention

Can I prevent urinary retention?

You can’t always prevent urinary retention, but you can take steps to lower your chances of developing the condition.

Change your bathroom habits

Use the bathroom whenever you have an urge to go. Often, people hold their urine because it’s not a good time to go to the bathroom. However, regularly holding urine in can wear out your bladder muscles. You’re also more likely to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) if you hold urine in. UTIs can cause urinary retention.

Men’s and women’s restroom sign.
Use the bathroom whenever you have the urge to go to prevent damaging the muscles in your bladder.

Stay in tune with your body

Pay attention to how often you feel the urge to urinate. If it becomes easier to delay using the bathroom and you stretch out the time between urinating, you may gradually stretch out your bladder. Also note if it becomes more difficult for you to begin to urinate or you feel that you’re not able to completely empty your bladder. These may be early signs of urinary retention.

Be aware of any changes to your urination habits after surgery or a serious back injury. It’s common for urinary retention to develop—either immediately or over time—after having surgery or injuring your back.

Talk with your health care professional if you notice any of the signs of urinary retention. You may be able to prevent the condition from becoming more severe if you get help early on.

Take medicine as prescribed

Men with prostate problems, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, should take the medicines prescribed by their health care professional and avoid medicines that may lead to urinary retention, such as decongestants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Do pelvic floor muscle exercises

Pelvic floor exercises, also called Kegel exercises, can make the pelvic floor muscles stronger and improve bladder and bowel function. Both men and women can benefit from pelvic floor muscle exercises.

Make dietary and lifestyle modifications

You can help prevent urinary retention caused by constipation by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. To help prevent constipation, get enough fiber in your diet, drink plenty of water and other liquids, and get regular physical activity.

<A table covered with healthy foods including broccoli, almonds, apples, salmon, tomatoes, and rice.
Eating a diet high in fiber can help prevent urinary retention caused by constipation.
Last Reviewed December 2019
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.